2013 Capital One
Georgia 45, Nebraska 31
- 2012-2013 CFN Bowl Central
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(AP)ORLANDO, Fla. -- Aaron Murray wanted nothing more this week than to send Georgia's senior class out with a game to remember.
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The junior quarterback provided a record-setting performance to make it a reality.
Murray threw five touchdown passes to set a Georgia bowl record, including two in the fourth quarter, as the Bulldogs (No. 7 BCS, No. 6 AP) beat Nebraska (No. 16 BCS, No. 23 AP) 45-31 in the Capital One Bowl on Tuesday.
Murray shook off a pair of first-half interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown, and passed for 427 yards -- also a Bulldogs' bowl record -- against the nation's top-ranked passing defense. He was the game's most valuable player on the way to earning his first bowl victory at Georgia.
Georgia (12-2) also reached 12 wins for the third time in school history.
"I don't know what it's like to head into an offseason with a win," Murray said. "It's a great feeling to get a win. It's great for the seniors, who have meant so much to this team. They've done a great job of leading this team the whole season.
"To get 12 wins ... That's something special."
Nebraska (10-4) lost its third consecutive bowl game, and finished the season with two straight woeful defensive performances. The Cornhuskers lost the Big Ten championship game 70-31.
The Cornhuskers led 24-23 at the half, but committed two of their three turnovers in the final 30 minutes.
Taylor Martinez had two interceptions and two touchdown passes for Nebraska and Rex Burkhead rushed 140 yards in his final college game.
But Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said the efficiency of Murray and Georgia on third down (finished 12 for 17) was too much to overcome.
"I thought the plan was good," Pelini said of his team's defensive scheme. "Third down hurt us, obviously. When were in position, it was man on man down the field. We needed to make some of those plays and we didn't. And, you know, again, that cost us a football game."
Nebraska drops to 12-7 against SEC opponents in bowl games.
Trailed by questions about his team's focus following its narrow loss to Alabama in the SEC championship game, Georgia coach Mark Richt said Tuesday was also about a team that finished 5 yards shy of a BCS title game-berth finding closure.
"We wanted to win this game to prove to ourselves that we are one of the better teams in the country," Richt said. "I think our guys did a good job of sucking it up when they were tired ... But when you make a big play here and there, it gives you a little more energy as well ... We made enough big plays at the right moment."
Nebraska's offense finished with 443 total yards, but the Bulldogs defense was stingy when it needed to be.
They sacked Martinez five times, with junior All-American linebacker Jarvis Jones notching two. Damian Swann had both Georgia interceptions.
With his two sacks Jones set a single-season record for with 14.5 sacks for the season. He will now decide in the coming days whether or not to enter the NFL draft.
"I think our coaches did a great job of halftime adjustments and got us out there adjusting to what they were calling and got us players honed in," Jones said. "Like coach Richt says, it's a 60-minute game and you've got to fight all 60 minutes."
Murray found Keith Marshall free near the sideline for a 24-yard touchdown pass that gave Georgia a 38-31 lead with 14:52 to play in the game.
Following a Nebraska punt, Murray then hit Chris Conley for a short pass in space over the middle. Conley outran the Cornhuskers defenders for an 87-yard score.
That play came after a 49-yard touchdown catch by Conley that helped Georgia tie the game in the third quarter.
Nebraska clung to a 24-23 lead at the half, taking back the advantage late in the second quarter via a 16-yard strike from Martinez to Burkhead.
After a pair of early turnovers, Murray seemed to be getting Georgia's offense back on track, as the Bulldogs punctuated a four-play, 38-yard drive with a 24-yard touchdown run by Todd Gurley to make it 23-17.
Both Bulldogs' turnovers came via Murray interceptions as the nation's top-ranked passing defense crowded Georgia's receivers and disguised their coverage schemes.
Gurley helped open things up, though, rushing for 81 yards in the opening 30 minutes.
Nebraska also allowed Georgia's defense three sacks, which thwarted some promising Cornhuskers drives.
"Their guys just made plays on stuff," Nebraska senior linebacker Will Compton said. "Our guys were there but, yeah, I mean they made more plays than we did at the end of the day."
Nebraska's defense didn't need long to force the game's first turnover, picking off a Murray pass on Georgia's opening drive of the game.
The Cornhuskers went three-and-out on their first offensive touch, and were forced to punt.
But that attempt by punter Brett Maher was blocked by the Bulldogs' Shawn Williams. There was a scramble for the ball in the end zone, but it trickled out of the back for a safety.
The Bulldogs then went up 9-0 their ensuing possession following the free kick, capping an 80-yard drive with a 29-yard touchdown pass by Murray to Arthur Lynch.
Nebraska's offense finally got going on its next touch, responding with a 14-yard touchdown pass from Martinez to Jamal Turner.
The Cornhuskers' defense then made with 14-9 when Compton came up with their second interception in the half on Murray and returned it 24 yards for the score.
"I'm real proud of Aaron and job he did," Richt said. "(He) had a couple of things go not exactly the way he wanted them to go. Had a couple of picks early. Just hung in there, very resilient and finished."
Georgia (11-2) vs. Nebraska (10-3)
Jan. 1, 1 pm ABC
Here’s The Deal … Mark Richt has gone 117-40 in his 12 years as the Georgia head coach. Along the way he has won two SEC championships and came within a tipped pass this year of a third title and his first shot at the national championship. But for all his success and for all the great things he has done in Athens, he still has something to prove.
Bo Pelini has gone 49-19 in his five years as the Nebraska head coach with three ten-win seasons and two nine-win campaigns. He has taken the Huskers to four conference championship games in his five seasons, but he lost all four, is coming off an obliteration by Wisconsin, and he has yet to finish a season ranked higher than 14th. He still has something to prove.
Georgia might have gone to two straight SEC championship games, but it helped in a huge way to not have to play any of the top teams from the West in each of the last two regular seasons. While South Carolina and Florida each had to deal with their share of the stars from the other division, the Bulldogs have been able to turn their campaigns around by getting through the easier parts of the second half schedule to go along with key wins over Florida.
How little respect is Georgia getting? After two puzzling bowl losses – inexplicably losing to UCF in the 2010 Liberty and in three overtimes to Michigan State in last year’s Outback – and with two straight SEC championship game defeats, when Richt was asked after the loss to Alabama about whether or not he and the program can come up with the truly big win, it was actually relevant. Close isn’t good enough in the SEC, and Richt hasn’t been able to lead the way to the next big step. Beating Nebraska to get to 11 wins for the first times since 2007 won’t get Richt or the Dawgs any more juice, but a loss would put the pressure on. Georgia is ready for BCS games and national championships – this is a game it’s supposed to win.
Meanwhile, Nebraska has lost two straight bowl games by double digits, not showing up against Washington in the 2010 Holiday and getting run over by South Carolina 30-13 in the 2012 Capital One. Throw in the 70-31 loss to the Badgers in the Big Ten championship, and despite the strong records and all the success, it’s must-win time for Pelini. He won’t get canned with a loss, just like Richt isn’t any danger of being fired, but he could use a splashy victory.
The Capital One had a great run of close thrillers from 2003 to 2010, and then Alabama blasted Michigan State and Nebraska went thud last year. Since the game went to an SEC vs. Big Ten matchup in 1993 the SEC has a slim 11-10 advantage.
Players to Watch: With star defensive tackle John Jenkins being suspended for academic issues, All-America linebacker Jarvis Jones will receive even more attention. The Georgia run defense hasn’t exactly been a rock, allowing 178 yards per game and getting shoved aside way too often, and the pass rush has been way too inconsistent. However, Jones is a one-man wrecking crew finishing first in the nation with 22.5 tackles for loss to go along with 12.5 sacks and a whopping seven forced fumbles. The key to stopping the Nebraska offense is to get to Taylor Martinez before he can get started, and Jones should be able to do that against the lumbering Husker offensive tackles.
it wasn’t Martinez’s fault that Nebraska stunk up the Big Ten championship. He came up with the season’s best touchdown run on the way to a 140-yard, two touchdown day, and while he threw two picks and had a hand in the downfall, to be fair, he had to press considering the defense wasn’t even close. After struggling against South Carolina in last year’s bowl, and doing little against Washington in the 2010 Holiday, he needs a good day to take into the offseason. After making a ten-mile leap in passing production after a mediocre 2011, having a New Year’s win over Georgia on the résumé will do wonders for the next eight months.
Martinez’s counterpart, junior Aaron Murray, was lousy in the team’s lone huge win – throwing for just 150 yards and three picks against Florida – and he was even worse in the loss to South Carolina. He made up for it with a terrific finishing kick and a better-than-the-stats day against Alabama in the SEC championship, but he failed to come through against Michigan State in the Outback with two key picks. With an NFL arm, smarts and experience, everything is there to leave early and be an instant starter at the next level, but it might come down to his performance against the Huskers. He’s still waiting to hear from the NFL on where he’s projected to go, and he says he’s waiting until after the bowl to give serious thought about whether or not to leave early, but what the Tampa native does up the road in Orlando will matter.
Georgia will win if … the running game gets rolling. If Todd Gurley and the Georgia ground attack comes up with a big start. Nebraska could quickly fall into an, “oh no, it’s happening again” mentality if its’ getting beaten up early on. Wisconsin started hammering away in the Big Ten championship and didn’t stop, and considering the Dawgs were able to run a bit on Alabama – at least Gurley did – this group isn’t afraid to get down and dirty. Nebraska’s three losses came when the run defense had its three worst games, giving up 344 yards to UCLA, 371 yards and six scores against Ohio State and 539 yards and eight touchdowns against the Badgers.
Defensively, Georgia should be able to focus fully on the Nebraska running game and has to sell out to get to Taylor Martinez. The Husker receivers shouldn’t be able to hurt the Bulldog secondary deep and Jarvis Jones should be able to tee off to get into the backfield. Georgia has only allowed 11 touchdown passes on the season with 11 picks, and the overall stats are even stronger considering the secondary had to fight through a slew of suspensions over the first part of the year. Once everyone got back on the field and had time to jell, the pass D was a rock allowing just three touchdowns over the final seven games. Martinez has improved his passing, but he isn’t going to become Aaron Rodgers all of a sudden.
Nebraska will win if … Georgia’s head is in Miami. You don’t come that close to winning the SEC title and playing for the national championship without sputtering a bit. Last year, Georgia lost the SEC title game and lost in its bowl to Michigan State. Two years ago, South Carolina lost the SEC title game and lost in the Chick-fil-A to Florida State. In 2008, Alabama lost a heartbreaker to Florida and then didn’t show up against Utah in the Sugar Bowl, making it three of the last four SEC championship losers to not win its bowl. Nebraska has to really, really care and it has to be intense from the start.
How can the Huskers get nasty from the opening kickoff? The offensive line has to establish itself right away and it has to punch the John Jenkins-less defensive front in the mouth. Nebraska, not Wisconsin, led the Big Ten in rushing and was able to generate a nice push most of the time when it really had to. Georgia got beaten up by Alabama as the SEC championship went on, and while Nebraska’s O line doesn’t compare, it’s still a good group that should be a positive as the game goes on. Even if things don’t work early on, Nebraska can’t get away from the run.
What Will Happen: It all depends on whether or not Georgia really cares about winning a non-BCS game. Nebraska is too mistake-prone and the defense too mediocre against the run to stuff the Bulldogs cold, and one player who’ll be certain to show up is Murray. This might not be a scintillating game or performance, but Georgia and its running game will pull away after a rocky first three quarters.
CFN Prediction: Georgia 27 … Nebraska 20
ATS Consultants Line (Click for more lines and picks) Georgia -10 O/U: 59.5
Capital One Bowl History
2012 South Carolina 30, Nebraska 13
2011 Alabama 49, Michigan State 7
2010 Penn State 19, LSU 17
Georgia 24, Michigan State 12
Michigan 41, Florida 35
Penn State 20, Tennessee 10
Wisconsin 24, Auburn 10
Iowa 30, LSU 25
Georgia 34, Purdue 27 (OT)
Auburn 13, Penn State 9
Tennessee 45, Michigan 17
Michigan 31, Auburn 28
Michigan St 37, Florida 34
Michigan 45, Arkansas 31
Florida 21, Penn State 6
Tennessee 48, Northwestern 28
Tennessee 20, Ohio State 14
Alabama 24, Ohio State 17
Penn St 31, Tennessee 13
Georgia 21, Ohio State 14
California 37, Clemson 13
Georgia Tech 45, Nebraska 21
Illinois 31, Virginia 21
Clemson 13, Oklahoma 6
Clemson 35, Penn State 10
Auburn 16, USC 7
Ohio State 10, BYU 7
Florida State 17, Georgia 17
Tennessee 30, Maryland 23
Auburn 33, Boston College 26
Missouri 19, So Mississippi 17
Florida 35, Maryland 20
LSU 34, Wake Forest 10
NC State 30, Pittsburgh 17
Florida St 40, Texas Tech 17
Oklahoma State 49, BYU 21
Miami-Ohio 20, So Carolina 7
Miami-Ohio 21, Georgia 10
Miami-Ohio 16, Florida 7
Tampa 21, Kent State 18
Toledo 28, Richmond 3
Toledo 40, William & Mary 12
Toledo 56, Davidson 33
Richmond 49, Ohio 42
UT Martin 25, West Chester 8
Morgan St 14, West Chester 6
East Carolina 31, Maine 0
East Carolina 14, Massachusetts 13
Western Kentucky 27, Coast Guard 0
Houston 49, Miami-Ohio 21
Lamar 21, Middle Tenn. St 14
Middle Tenn. St 21, Presbyterian 12
East Texas State 26, Missouri Valley 7
East Texas State 10, Southern Mississippi 9
West Texas A&M 20, Southern Mississippi 13
Juniata 6, Missouri Valley 6
Nebraska-Omaha 7, Eastern Kentucky 6
Arkansas State 7, East Texas State 7
East Texas State 33, Tennessee Tech 0
Stetson 35, Arkansas State 20
Morris Harvey 35, Emory & Henry 14
Saint Vincent 7, Emory & Henry 6
Murray State 21, Sul Ross 21
Catawba 7, Marshall 0
Catawba 31, Maryville (Tenn.) 0